That’s because Ontario’s vaccine website, where Canadians from the province can download the proof of vaccination they need to board their plane ride home, can’t be accessed from outside North America.
Global News heard from multiple Canadians abroad who, when they tried to log in to pull up their proof of vaccination, were notified that the Ontario vaccine webpage was blocked. The only Canadian contacted by Global News who was able to access the website was travelling in the United States.
Now, the Ontario government says it plans to “broaden portal access” beyond North America — which is where it’s currently restricted to — but it provided no details on when it plans to make that happen.
“Access to Ontario’s vaccine portal was restricted to North America to increase security, since Ontarians were previously only using the portal to book vaccine appointments in the province,” said Alexandra Hilkene, ministry of health spokesperson.
“With the introduction of proof of vaccination, Ontario will broaden portal access beyond North America to support Ontarians abroad.”
In the meantime, Hilkene said Ontarians should download their proof of vaccination “before they travel within or outside Canada.”
“Additionally, everyone who provided their email address at point of vaccination will have a copy in their inbox that can be accessed without visiting the portal,” she said.
Canadians are currently still advised not to travel internationally unless it’s essential, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in an interview with The West Block host Mercedes Stephenson that was aired on Sunday.
“I’ll remind Canadians that, as annoying as it is, … we still have travel advisories in place recommending that people don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Hajdu said.
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The travel advisory is still in place for “a couple of reasons,” Hajdu added, including the fact that there are a “number of places in the world” where “COVID is still very, very out of control” — including some American states.
Another reason, Hajdu said, is because travel rules can change “very quickly” while Canadians are abroad.
“We’ve seen a number of stories over the last 18 months or so of Canadians finding out, when they’ve arrived in another country, that the rules have changed and that they now have hurdles to get back to Canada or challenges to get into the country in which they’ve just arrived,” she said.
One such hurdle Canadians could encounter is the fact that some countries have yet to recognize Canadians who received two different vaccines as being fully vaccinated — including the United States.
Canada is “hard at it” trying to convince other countries to recognize the vaccinated status of Canadians who got two different vaccine doses, according to chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said Monday that travellers will be able to fly to the States if they’ve received shots of vaccines approved or recognized for emergency use by the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — including AstraZeneca.
It did not, however, say whether that included people who had received a mixed-dose regimen of approved vaccines.
“The United States, as you know, is going to begin to put down some vaccine requirements at the beginning of November,” Tam said.
“They are still working everything through at their end, so we are waiting anxiously to see what — what they will be doing at their end. But let’s just say we have left no stones unturned to advocate for the vaccine schedules here.”
Hajdu said she has been pressing her counterparts on the issue as well.
“This is something that I think all countries are working through — which vaccines will they accept as proof of vaccination for entry into the country — and we’re going to continue to work with our American counterparts to share all the data they need to move on this issue,” she said
Hajdu would not reveal whether the U.S. administration appears open to recognizing COVID-19 vaccine dose mixing, but said Canadian officials will “continue to, obviously, press the Americans to recognize” it.
“I suspect that this will continue to be a work in progress for countries, including the United States, including Canada, about how we ensure that we have the confidence in vaccines that we haven’t had the ability to fully review from a scientific database,” she said.
“That’s the work that we’ll continue to do here in Canada, and I’m confident our international partners will do so as well.”
— with files from The Canadian Press